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LTFRB to revoke franchises of buses bearing political ads

By , Paolo G. Montecillo Jocelyn Uy

MANILA, Philippines—The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will revoke the franchise of provincial and Metro Manila bus companies that will violate the Commission on Elections ban on campaign ads and banners on buses and stations during the campaign period.

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Chairman James Jacob confirmed that companies would face penalties for having election campaign ads on their buses. He said the LTFRB would also cancel franchises of repeat offenders.

“The only problem is that the definition of what campaign ads are is not complete…,” Jacob said in an interview. “It would be easier for us if the Comelec had a clear definition,” he said.

A top official of a leading bus franchise in Metro Manila said that the LTFRB has already informed the bus owners nationwide of the Comelec ban and underscored the order’s “strict” implementation. “I believe the LTFRB is serious about this order and some bus companies are already cleaning up their buses and terminals. We can’t be too careful because our franchises are at stake,” said the bus official who requested not to be named.

Based on Comelec Resolution signed January 15, the Comelec has included buses and bus terminals among the public areas where any election campaign or propaganda material is prohibited for posting or display or exhibition during the official campaign period from February 12 to May 11 this year. The Comelec said that any infringement of this rule would be “cause for the revocation of the public utility franchise and will make the owner and/or operator of the transportation service and/or terminal liable for an election offense under Section 9 of Republic Act No. 9006.”

The bus official interviewed by the Philippine Daily Inquirer said the decision would be a big blow to the industry as it was hoping to cash in on the multibillion-peso election spending bonanza with an ad on the back of the bus costing roughly P10,000 per month.

Inquirer research showed that as of December 2012, 8,077 bus franchises were registered nationwide with a combined fleet of 26,483 units, with 391 franchises in Metro Manila running a total of 5,342 units. The bus official said that most industry operators were expecting to generate at least P100 million in monthly income from political ads during the campaign.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. stressed that  political ads in the guise of commercial ads (where a senatorial candidate would endorse products or push for advocacies of his or her agency) would not be allowed during  the three-month campaign period. Brillantes has already indicated his desire to strictly enforce the spending limit of candidates to P3 per voter.

The “commercial ads” of a number of senatorial candidates have been a common sight on buses  more than a year before the May election. Buses have become a potent advertising medium especially for mass-based products as this mode of transportation remain as the biggest daily carriers of people in the country compared to jeepneys, airplanes, ships, taxi cabs and tricycles.

Aside from buses and public transport terminals, the Comelec has also cracked down on excessive advertising on television and radio stations, print media and websites.

Under Comelec Resolution No. 9615, which provides the rules and regulations implementing the Fair Election Act, all prohibited forms of election propaganda shall be removed by the responsible candidate or party or they will be presumed to have committed an election offense.

According to the resolution, illegal forms of propaganda include any names, images, logos, brands, insignias, color motifs, initials and other forms of identifiable graphical representation placed by the candidates on any public structures or places.

Campaign posters and banners mounted on government vehicles, public buses, jeeps, trains, taxis, ferries, pedicabs and tricycles—whether motorized or not—and within the premises of public terminals also constitute an election offense punishable by disqualification from holding public office, a prison term from one to six years and revocation of the right to vote.

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Tags: 2013 midterm elections , Commission on Elections , election campaign , Elections , James Jacob , Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board , LTFRB , passenger buses , Philippines , political ads

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